Next Stop: Boredom

terror train 2022TERROR TRAIN

2 Stars  2022/90m

Director: Philippe Gagnon / Writers: Ian Carpenter & Aaron Martin / Cast: Robyn Alomar, Nadine Bhabha, Matias Garrido, Corteon Moore, Tim Rozon, Mary Walsh, Emma Elle Paterson, Alexandre Bacon, Kenny Wong, Dakota Jamal Wellman.

Body Count: 6


‘Familiarity breeds contempt’ as the saying goes, and things don’t get much more familiar than remakes that opt for an almost shot-for-shot route of updating a ‘classic’. Is 1980’s Terror Train a classic? Outside of slasherdom, probably not, but for us? Yes. Yes it is. When 2008’s Train abandoned being a remake of it in favour of being Hostel-by-Rail, the door was left open.

That the plot is exactly the same at least saves me typing it all out again, but prank, Kenny, trauma, three years later, train. The only notable differences are that it’s a Halloween party instead of New Year’s, Carne is now a watchful older lady, and there’s a new character in the form of Sadie, a junior conductor of some sort, who does most of the walking up and down the train and discovering of bodies.

Because writers Carpenter and Martin (who wrote several seasons of Slasher between them) know that horror nuts will remember the twist, the identity of the killer has been changed as well, but with a reduced number of players, their identity isn’t too surprising once revealed.

The main problem with this made-for-TV redux is that it looks very made-for-TV, with watered down production polish, characters who, despite being based on their sympathetic former instances, are uninteresting and saddled with feeble dialogue (“I swear, I’m a good person!” squeals the heroine as the killer closes in on her), and just a disappointing cheapness that manifests with too few extras, making the party look lifeless and poorly attended.

Not awful, just pedestrian, which is kinda ironic given that it’s set on a train ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Abort

jeepers creepers reborn 2022

JEEPERS CREEPERS: REBORN

“Death gives it life.”

1.5 Stars  2022/88m

Director: Timo Vuorensola / Writers: Jake Seal & Sean-Michael Argo / Cast: Sydney Craven, Imran Adams, Peter Brooke, Jarreau Benjamin, Ocean Navarro, Matt Barkley, Dee Wallace, Gary Graham.

Body Count: 5

Laughter Lines: “How do you like those peepers, bitch?”


There’s a story to be told with this character – yet nobody seems to want to tell it.

A million miles along an empty road from the theatrical releases of the original and its first sequel in 2001 and 03, arguably Victor Salva’s plot to prevent his idea being turned into a series of diminishing returns by factoring in a 23-year gap between sprees hugely backfired – as the series has become just that.

After the infuriatingly pointless third entry ended with a flicker of hope it would garner enough interest for the next film to bring back Gina Philips as Trish, the rights to the franchise seem to have been pried from Salva’s grip (likely in light of his dodgy past), its budget slashed to ribbons, and consigned to circle the drain without a required shot of investment to be able to give fans of the originals what they want – answers.

jeepers creepers reborn 2022 dee wallace

Reborn begins much like the first film, with an old couple (Wallace and Graham) idling along a backroad who are briefly tormented by a creepy truck (albeit a different one) with the BeatingU plate, and soon after see the occupant tossing what looks to be a body wrapped in a sheet down a pipe. He gives chase, they evade and go back to the pipe… This then zooms out to be a dramatisation online, watched by Creeper-believer Chase, who, with his girlfriend Laine, is driving into Jackson, Louisiana, for a horror festival themed around the local legend. Curiously, the voiceover says the couple were never seen again – so how did the story of what happened to them even get out?

When they stop off at a curiosity outlet, the psychic woman who runs it senses Laine is newly pregnant and conspires to have the pair ‘win’ an escape room experience at an old plantation house where cloaked goths worship the Creeper. He, meanwhile, crawls from hibernation status and begins collecting new body parts from various schmucks who wander into the woods until he’s strong enough to hunt the group who get locked in the house with him.

jeepers creepers reborn 2022 imran adams peter brooke

The real villain here is budget, in that there clearly isn’t one with enough funds to show us the Creeper fly, or do much beyond walk around the set (the film was largely shot on soundstages in the UK) stalking victims like any other slasher maniac. The van is wheeled out for a couple of scenes, but barely registers come the end, by which point the overdose of kids-TV-show quality green screen has all but consumed any goodwill the film might’ve built up early on.

Salva’s past crimes – which notably pre-date even the first film – may have been his undoing, but at least the guy had a vision. In this wasteful state, it’s probably best to abort the series entirely.

Blurbs-of-interest: Peter Brooke was in Wrong Turn 5; Dee Wallace can also be seen in Halloween (2007), Dead End RoadScarPopcorn, and Red Christmas.

The End of an Era. Again.

halloween ends 2022

HALLOWEEN ENDS

2 Stars  2022/18/111m

Director/Writer: David Gordon Green / Writers: Paul Brad Logan, Chris Bernier, Danny McBride / Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Andi Matichak, Rohan Campbell, Will Patton, James Jude Courtney, Kyle Richards, Michael Barbieri, Karaun Harris, Michael O’Leary, Michele Dawson, Joanne Baron, Rick Moose.

Body Count: 18


The Final ChapterThe Final NightmareThe Final Friday - we’ve been here before, even more than once in the same series. It doesn’t feel that long ago (but probably is) that Halloween H20 was supposed to be the closing word on Michael Myers. But it made bank, so he regained his severed head, but the series soon died again.

The second reboot, taking the series off into its fourth possible timeline, in 2018 was also supposed to be the last one. It was fine, flawed here and there, but carried an aroma of crispy fried finality. It made bank, so suddenly two further sequels were announced. 2021’s delayed Halloween Kills delved deep into fan service and then some weird allegory around vigilante mobs. Laurie didn’t share a single scene with Michael – it just… strange, but housed a couple of decent scenes to just about earn a pass.

Ends though… My, my, my where to begin? Big spoilers ahoy. Well, it begins a year later – Myers is AWOL, Haddonfield has become a bit of a depressed state where everything gets blamed on The Boogeyman or his legacy. Into a simple babysitting gig walks Corey, a slightly dorky student, who replaces the unwell first choice to look after rich kid Jeremy, whose pranks ultimately lead to the kid falling to his death.

halloween ends 2022 michele dawson

Three years later, Corey is a social pariah, hated by the locals and wasting his potential. He runs into Laurie when she wades into a confrontation with some entitled douchey teens and introduces him to Allyson, with whom Corey instantly sparks, their mutual sadness connecting them at an unseen level. Laurie soon sees a darkness in Corey that reminds her of you-know-who, threatening her new found Zen outlook on everything.

When Corey meets you-know-who, subsisting in a sewer pipe, instead of becoming another victim, they too have a meeting of the minds and embark on some bizarro twin-killer spree, taking out those who have wronged Corey in some way. Stranger still, the murders seem to go totally unnoticed, and when Corey decides his own scarecrow mask isn’t up to it, he steals Mikey’s and dons himself an official tribute act.

halloween ends 2022 michael myers

This is where Halloween Ends becomes ‘okay’ – in the same way Resurrection worked as a goofy, fun slasher movie if you divorced it from its forebears, Corey-as-Michael puts in a few decent kills, first offing Ally’s manager and the young nurse he’s sleeping with, then the douchey teens, his overbearing mom, and a shit-talking shock jock who sassed him a day or so earlier.

Knowing Laurie is trying to prevent Allyson from leaving Haddonfield with him, Corey’s final call is at their shared house and Michael, clearly just wanting his mask back, isn’t far behind. He and Laurie fight, and she finally gets him where she wants him, resulting in a town-wide procession to rid themselves of the Myers curse once and for all. And the ending is final. It has to be… If we get Halloween Re-Resurrection in four years, fuck knows how they’ll find a workaround to explain this one.

halloween ends 2022 jamie lee curtis

Jarring tonal shifts have plagued this new trilogy, from ballistic body counts, overly sadistic murders, that ‘Evil Dies Tonight!’ nonsense, and now the new Yoga-Laurie, although her early scenes just hanging out with Allyson and Lindsay are probably where the film feels most relaxed and natural. It’s almost like a ‘Haddonfield’ TV series was condensed into two hours, and between the not-awful scenes of Kills and Ends, there could have been a decent last outing, but the whole 2018-22 reboot cycle has been the epitome of needlessness.

Look out for Julian and the reappearance of a character we thought was no longer even alive…

I never thought I’d say this of a JLC-starring Halloween movie, but this is the worst in the entire series. Remakes included.

Blurbs-of-interest: Michael O’Leary was in Fatal Games; Joanne Baron was in iMurders.

100 favourite slasher movie characters – Part III

There’s no order to this, just a celebration of my fave characters over the years, largely (but not entirely) ignoring final girls and killers. (Some spoilers though – boooo).

*

mrs voorhees betsy palmer friday the 13th 1980MRS VOORHEES

Played by Betsy Palmer

In Friday the 13th (1980)

Why? The mom of all moms – in horror terms at least – woe to the first-time viewer of Friday the 13th who assumed the killer would be grizzly dude in a mask, but turned out to be the kindly middle-aged lady who is part-possessed by the spirit of her ‘dead’ son.

Quote? “Come dear… it’ll be easier for you than it was for Jason.”

*

ARCHarch thomas f. wilson april fool's day 1986

Played by Thomas F. Wilson

In April Fool’s Day (1986)

Why? Jocks who just want to get laid in slasher films usually evoke very little sympathy, as they usually have very little character. April Fool’s Day is an irregularity in this regard, giving us a bunch of college kids with added depth and, consequently, likeability.

Quote? “I’m on a mission here, a mission to bed as many women as humanly possible.”

*

taryn white a nightmare on elm street 3 dream warriors jennifer rubin 1987

TARYN

Played by Jennifer Rubin

In A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

Why? Of the ‘Dream Warrior’ kids at Westin Hills hospital, recovering addict Taryn was easily my favourite. Edgy and sarcastic, but resolute and determined, she’s ready to take Freddy on.

Quote? “In my dreams I’m beautiful… and bad.”

*

MINDYmindy meeks-martin scream 2022 jasmine savoy brown

Played by Jasmine Savoy Brown

In Scream (2022)

Why? As niece of Randy Meeks, Mindy slides effortlessly into his place (and Kirby’s) as the walking Wiki on horror convention, being the one to discern that the new killer is making a ‘requel’ this time, and later getting to be part of a sort of infinity mirror moment as she advises Randy’s Stab character to turn around while he advises Jamie Lee Curtis to turn around, all the while herself needing to turn around…

Quote? “You need to build something new. But not too new or the Internet goes bug-fucking-nuts.”

*

natalie alicia witt urban legend 1998NATALIE

Played by Alicia Witt

In Urban Legend (1998)

Why? As far as final girls go in the 90s slasher cycle, Alicia Witt gave it a slightly reserved skew to distinguish Natalie from Sidney Prescott’s ass-kickery and Jennifer Love Hewitt’s squealing. As a flawed, slightly self-righteous character, she’s more interesting than most of her contemporaries and a major selling point for the movie.

Quote? “This was someone’s life, Paul. Did you ever stop to think about that?”

*

RICKYhack 2007 justin chong

Played by Justin Chong

In Hack! (2007)

Why? Gay characters had been sorely absent from horror throughout the 80s (unless they were the killer), so once the 00s came around it was great to see an influx of theatrical boys in the ranks. Ricky camps it up nicely, singing Fame to stave off the scares as he waits alone in the woods on an island with more than one homicidal maniac running around on it.

*

ralph marcia the initiation 1983MARCIA & RALPH

Played by Marilyn Kagan & Trey Stroud

In The Initiation (1983)

Why? Another film with surprisingly well drawn characters, Marcia is the sex-phobic pledge Ralph the wannabe comedian who eventually shows his sensitive side in a sweet shared scene – and then both are immediately killed.

Quote? “[Sex] again?” / “It’s customary at our age.”

*

BUBbub intruder burr steers 1988

Played by Burr Steers

In Intruder (1988)

Why? As far as horror movie stoners go, Burr has got to be near the top of the stack. Near-continuously zoned out from his duties, he meets a very nasty end, but was hopefully too spaced to really notice.

Quote? “I swear to God. If my brother hadn’t hit him in the head repeatedly with a blender, he would’ve killed me!”

*

lovers lane 1999 anna farisJANELLE

Played by Anna Faris

In Lovers Lane (1999)

Why? Another archetype is the slutty cheerleader character. However, in Lovers Lane, pre-stardom Anna Faris makes Janelle a friendly new-girl whose death-by-hook feels unjustly cruel.

*

MRS SLATERmrs slater the house on sorority row 1982

Played by Lois Kelso Hunt

In The House on Sorority Row (1982)

Why? Cranky housemother Mrs Slater rules the Pi Theta sorority with an iron fist – and iron cane. Permanently annoyed, her inflexibility quite literally becomes the death of her. Gotta love these no-bull matriarch types though. Her in a girl group with Mother Superior and Mrs Voorhees would be awesome.

Quote? “If that gun is real, all you girls are going to be in real trouble.”

The Final Girl Support Group

fgsg

In recent years we’ve had the movies Last Girl StandingThe Final Girls, and the books The Last Final Girl and Final Girlswhich are now joined by Grady Hendrix’s likely-best-of-the-bunch The Final Girl Support Group.

Across the aforementioned titles, what other stories are there to drill-down into in this sub-sub-subset of a sub-genre?

The title should clue you in to some degree; a group of women who survived various killing sprees in the 1980s gather for a regular trauma support circle, overseen by a potentially fame-seeking psychologist.

As is common, the players are largely named after actors or characters from across the genre: Marilyn survived a van trip in Texas in the 70s; Dani a Halloween night babysitting terror; Heather beat a killer known as The Dream King at his own game; wheelchair-bound Julia a post-modern small town murder spree by her boyfriend and his pal; and our narrator, Lynnette, is slightly looked down upon by the others for being more of an ‘unfinished victim’ when a Santa suit-clad loon skewered her on to mounted reindeer’s antlers. The group was founded by Adrienne, who offed the head of a killer who rampaged through Camp Red Lake in payment for the death of his son previously.

Yeah, that’s right, the most popular titles have been pillaged to provide the women their backstories. Most strikingly, Mrs Voorhees was changed to Mr Volker for Adrienne’s backstory, because Hendrix has presented a realm in which all killers are men, undoubtedly to compact the women vs. male-violence context in which the tale is told. He even begins the book with a paraphrased quote from Carol Clover’s essay Her Body, Himself that states “Boys die because they make mistakes, girls die because they’re female.” This never made sense in context – see this thing I wrote about just that comment. Still, their stories, which have each been made into film franchises, have been altered to reflect this, with mostly female victims featured.

When Adrienne is murdered, ever-paranoid Lynnette goes to ground, but finds her life under threat when someone has thwarted her various escape plans, including her Plan Bs and Cs… She goes on the run, seeking help from the others, who are then sent the less-than-flattering private manuscript she wrote about the support group. But then Dani is arrested, Heather’s abode is burned down – someone is coming after them from all angles. Lynnette ends up chasing down clues, taking a ‘junior’ final girl with her, meeting with a ‘fallen’ member of the group who deals in true crime merchandise, and ultimately having to gather the gang for a ride or die confrontation with the person behind it all.

The first half of the book is hard going, not least because the characters are largely miserable and twisted, with Lynnette being the least sympathetic, but it all comes together in time, culminating in a neat mirror image of slasher characters: Each of the final girls have become one of either the jock, the scholar, the (ugh) ‘slut’, the stoner, which makes for some interesting counter-theories. One sorely lacking aspect is any notion of camp – not that Hendrix should’ve gone all-out parody, but the story is so po-faced throughout it’s wound-strong narrative, some levity would’ve done wonders.

A real page-turner if ever there was one, but it’s worth noting the book, as a whole, is not a slasher opus unlike most of its kin, and goes deeper into the themes around final girl-dom than the others, though Riley Sager’s book is closest in plot. It’s due to be made into a TV series in time.

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